Thanks to John Burfitt and Vet Practice Magazine, Michelle provides her insights for business success.
With the new year well under way, now is the ideal time to consider how to improve your business, to put it on the path to success. By John Burfitt.
The feeling that the world is undergoing something of a reboot as it emerges from the chaos of the recent years of the pandemic seems to have lately taken hold. On a micro level, that means many business owners including those in dentistry are similarly seeing now as the perfect opportunity to take stock and identify what changes can be made in their practice to improve profit and productivity.
A range of business commentators agree the early months of a new year are the ideal time for planning and setting new goals to set up 2023 for smarter ways of working.
“As we look ahead into the coming months, businesses need to be strategic in their planning,” accountant and small business consultant Amy Fox says. “These are key areas to focus on so the year ahead runs better than the year before.”
Adds workplace expert and business success author Michelle Gibbings, “You need to make the most of this time, to assess your business’ health and determine where to focus your energy. And, where necessary, to change your approach.”
Learn your lessons
Analysing everything that worked and everything that didn’t in 2022 can prove to be one of the best ways to determine what needs to be focused on in the year ahead.
Gibbings says a business owner needs to address four key business points from the previous year to understand a better way for this year.
“Determine if you achieved the goals and targets you set in 2022, then decide what activities helped grow the business and, importantly, what were non-value adding,” she advises.
“You also need to know what is the business’ cashflow position and where did the revenue and expenses increase and decrease across the year,” she says.
“All the staff, from the receptionist right across to the senior vets, must have a care factor that comes through in their interactions with each client. If their care factor is zero, then that’s a problem and needs to be addressed at once.” Jon Michail, group CEO, Image Group International
Once all aspects of the previous year’s performance have been analysed and understood, Gibbings says that is the time to make a comprehensive plan. “Taking time to reflect on the past can powerfully inform your next steps.”
Make a plan
Instead of just making one big plan full of targets to achieve by the end of the year, a plan with two target points—the financial end of year in June and the calendar end of year in December—should be adopted, financial planner Sheila Cabacungan of Wealth Forum recommends.
A comprehensive business plan should outline key goals for the practice and include what action is required to accomplish them. Adopting a two-target plan to cover the 12-month period can allow for better opportunities for adjustment.
“Basically, this gives you two opportunities across the year to reflect, review, reset and restart,” she says. “It offers two opportunities to start again if need be.”
Cabacungan advises the first months of the year should be spent devoted to planning and focusing on strategies. After the end of the financial year in June is the time to make adjustments to the business plan to see the business through for the next six months.
Know your numbers
Pouring over the accounts to analyse what the figures reveal about the current state of the practice, and what is actually financially feasible for any grand plans, needs to be a top priority, advises Amy Fox.
“Do a thorough review of all your financials and make sure you have a solid understanding of your cashflow, expenses, and revenue streams,” she says.
“Developing a clear budget and having a solid financial plan in place ensures you’re able to manage your finances effectively. This includes forecasting your revenue, expenses, and cashflow, as well as identifying potential challenges and opportunities.”
“As we look ahead into the coming months, businesses need to be strategic in their planning. These are key areas to focus on so the year ahead runs better than the year before.” Amy Fox, small business consultant
She advises that paying close attention to the numbers in the early months of the year needs to become an established habit that then continues throughout the year, in order to know the best way to move the business forward.
Get your house in order
Taking time to explore how the practice functions for both the staff and the patients—from first booking through to paying the bill at the end of a consultation—can be an empowering process, Jon Michail, group CEO of Image Group International says.
“You need to constantly improve your customer service, so it works for both the client and the team,” he says. “All the staff, from the receptionist right across to the senior vets, must have a care factor that comes through in their interactions with each client. If their care factor is zero, then that’s a problem and needs to be addressed at once.”
Another fundamental part of ensuring the business is in order is addressing key areas of operations, and making necessary changes to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase productivity.
“This could include implementing new technologies, streamlining processes, and outsourcing non-core tasks, as well as reviewing HR policies and procedures to ensure you’re in compliance with relevant laws and regulations,” Amy Fox adds. “It’s also important to review your supply chain and identify potential risks and opportunities.”
Invest in your greatest asset
With upskilling having emerged in recent years as a vital aspect of remaining up-to-date and relevant, continuing professional development has taken on a new priority for many in the profession.
“These early months are a great time to review performance, manage expectations on pay and flexible working conditions and set dates for your team’s professional and personal development,” Sheila Cabacungan says.
Just as important, she stresses, is working out a wellness and mindset plan for the team, outlining dates for annual leave and holidays to assist with planning ahead and offering an effective work-life balance for all.
“Seek input from your team and plan training and social events that can build better teamwork and cohesion, and will also build important bonds,” she adds.